Wednesday 28 August 2013

The Blair shadow

The Americans went through a crisis in the 1960's and 70's. A very real, nation destroying, culture changing, society bending change. The death of JFK. Martin Luther King. The Vietnam war. The oil crisis. Bad as all this was Watergate was the final straw for many. Not only had the politicians failed to deliver..They were lying, cheating, self serving, money grabbing crooks too. If you couldn't trust the word of the President, Then who's could you trust?

For the UK, escaping the Vietnam war altogether thanks to a heroic Harold Wilson meant we had no need to examine our own politicians too closely. They were all pretty ineffective was all. Not until the same, less heroic, pipe smoking PM assured the nation that the pound in their pocket was unaffected by devaluation did people begin to doubt the words of the elected leader.  And I would argue that it was only under Tony Blair that UK citizens really begin to not just distrust their leaders but to actually disbelieve them. People began ignoring official advice or information and believing their own sourced information, however unlikely and however poorly researched, instead.

People had been steadily less impressed by their leaders for a long time. TV news. A new realism. Reduced censorship Sexual revolution..loosened morality.. whatever..
But New labour's soviet style spin factory, where every day was sunny and every citizen joyful, bred doubt and cynicism. For much like Stalin's Red Square parade where the NKVD had pre-recorded themselves ecstatically cheering and on the day played that through loudspeakers, and the same thousand upon thousand NKVD men guarded the square with empty holsters and ammunition free rifles in case they weren't as ecstatic as they claimed, the citizen's eyes and their ears were hearing and seeing different stories.

Under New Labour crime fell repeatedly. Children were better educated than ever. Sickness was a whisker away from being cured. Cafe culture drinking was making late night drinkers politer and ended binge drinking. Immigration was only an issue for racists and only about six Eastern Europeans had come into the country anyway. 
Rosy, rosy rosy. In fact, up until 9/11 the biggest problem Blair faced had been what to do about rich people wanting to continue hunting foxes from horseback.

A chilling thing occurred just before 9/11. The MMR scandal showed that thousands..hundreds of thousands.. of people refused to believe their government. The  Labour government repeatedly claimed that the jab was safe. Had always been safe. That the Lancet report linking it to autism was as bogus as the Millennium bug had been. And they were right.

Few parents listened. And when PM Blair refused to say if his son had had the jab the disobedience to government health instructions got a lot worse.

Blair was only following SOP for the PM's office.. Never give out personal or medical information to the Press. Only this time the fact he said nothing led many to draw their own negative conclusions and to foolishly take their own action, or lack of action that has had repercussions down to today.

When the Labour government committed the UK to war in Afghanistan, there were dissenters, but 65% of people supported the war.
Iraq was closer. 53% were in favour in 2003 but those against were marching. Tony Blair was in real danger of having to resign. So he made his powerful commons speeches , the claim that we faced attack and the 45 minutes to destruction and the dodgy dossier.
Even at the time it didn't sound like enough reason to go to war. Especially as we were already fighting one. But, Tony was the boss. He said it was necessary and he had access to secrets that we didn't so..benefit of the doubt.. and a majority agreed with him.

Unluckily, as we now know, the war was based on bogus reports and faulty intelligence. Wishful thinking and truly terrible aftermath planning, a lousy President. No UN or Turkish cooperation  meant it all went wrong very quickly. 

The spin that went with the war to convince a fairly sceptical public and a very sceptical media put the stake into the honesty heart of politicians for a generation. The subsequent MPs expenses scandal was just icing on a cake that we had already seen.

All politicians are liars.

So when the Prime Minister says that Assad deployed chemical weapons, few believe him. When the weapons inspectors say it was 95% likely the Syrian Army used nerve agents, the public don't listen. 
When William Hague sets out a strategy for a few Tomahawk missiles to be lobbed at the Palace, people see preparations for a full scale military deployment using British troops. Even though at the very most only a handful of British special forces troops ever walked on Libyan soil during the entire conflict, people will say the whole thing had been engineered by the USA to seize the oil. 
- Despite Obama being a virtual saint and despite Obama and America showing no appetite for action in any of the many recent flashpoints of the Arab spring. The American's wouldn't even join France and UK in Libya and they had to be dragged in.

All politicians are liars. The evidence of our eyes and ears says maybe not all the time, surely? We don't care. All politicians are liars. We didn't win in Iraq or Afghanistan and as a nation we have no wish to try again somewhere else. 66% are against any involvement in Syria- That was a poll 6 months ago before it even looked likely. It will probably be higher by now.

So no matter how much David Cameron tries to explain that the red line has been crossed. That the UN agrees it has been crossed and to maintain any credibility some action, even gesture politics style Clintonesque, feeble desert missile bombing action must be taken. No matter how much he promises there will be no escalation and that the UK has no intention of forming a coalition for war, most won't believe him. He can say what he likes but he's talking to people who have made up their minds. The fact he was right about Libya and the doom sayers were wrong won't matter a jot.

All politicians are liars.

The shadow of Tony Blair will be very long and very dark for a good while yet.


dearieme said...

Well said. Perhaps, though, you could have added that the UN's Middle East Peace Envoy - or whatever silly title the loathsome wee twat enjoys at the moment - is keen on this war too.

Budgie said...

BQ, you could add to the mix the fact that politicians (and others who run our society, like NHS Trust managers) never seem to resign when they get it wrong.

I don't know where the 65% figure for public support for the war in Afghanistan came from, most people I know were always sceptical because of historical experience.

Nor do I think Cameron was right about Libya: it was a basket case before, and still is. Just a different one.

You could easily see that Cameron has been hankering after an excuse for military involvement in Syria, despite denials. I've seen it coming for months.

My MP has just written to me to state that the Tories are our only hope of exiting from the EU. When Cameron has unequivocally and repeatedly stated he will not take the UK out of the EU, you will not be surprised to find I do not believe my MP. Indeed, why has my MP even said it, it is such tosh.

The public will believe politicians when they start telling the truth. But only after a time to regain trust - and to get over the shock.

electro-kevin said...

The very sight of Tony Blair makes me feel ill.

He's the reason I became a blogger.

roym said...

funny how this thesis tries to pin everything on blair, but when it comes down to it, isnt it clear that 'normal' people are culpable themselves? none more clear so than for the MMR example.

corncrake said...

@ electro-kevin
NuLabor and it's dictator T B-Liar were my reasons for blogging as well.
And whilst I have a breath left in my body I will keep the truth alive that B-Liar and his cohorts are war criminals.

As for Cameroon?
He is a failed clone of his hero B-Liar.

Nick Drew said...

EK / corncrake - it's interesting isn't it ? I started this lark under the uncontrollable urge to mock, deride and generally damn Blair & Brown

I've never really managed to work up that fervour again

(which is probably as well, since I don't inflict the doggerel on you so much these days)

Peter Whale said...

Budgie has it right it is the fact that there is no accountability for any action made MPs or in the civil service by any quango head or local government for any fiasco that occurs a golden handshake taxpayer funded and move on to the next institution that is all that happens.

Bill Quango MP said...

dearieme:Blair does think its a good idea. But he doesn't say intervention. Maybe he just wants to stop the Middle east dictators unleashing their stocks of chemicals on each other?

Budgie: Agreed. Non accountability for made up facts was also a cause of erosion of the politicians message.
As for Libya what I meant was the ultra anti-intervention peaceniks predicted a quagmire Iraq situation with UK forces committed for ten years for ever decreasing returns and ever increasing casualties.

That didn't happen and was never likely to. Same with Syria. Western forces aren't planning going near the place with foot soldiers. Just standoff weapons fired from outside Syrian airspace or waters.

{already on the radio today three callers have said the Americans are hell bent on war...Clearly they aren't. American public opinion is almost the reverse of their Iraq 2 war polling with 80% against military action. They have tried all sorts of measures to stay out of it. Only Obama's bumbling and Assad's desperation/confidence have allowed the situation to develop against the wishes of all concerned.}

The strange thing about Blair is why did he do it? He was such a pathetically cautious PM before 9/11.
Very, very timid. Focus group tested policies only.
Then suddenly he wages war for no reason. And to this day..there is no reason. Bush was a bit more open. He went to war because he wanted to. Ridiculous as it seems that's about as close to a reason as has been given.

Bill Quango MP said...

roym: Glad you brought that up.
Public concerns of elected or appointed officials had been building in the West since WW1. Two world wars made the remaining civilians distrustful.

Its not confined to Blair. About 6% of Americans profess to believe the Moon landing was faked. 20% or higher believe the twin towers were dynamited by the CIA. To believe that you have to believe your own governments not only don't represent you, but are actively plotting against their own citizens. That's the lies of Watergate effect.

People have always believed what they want to. Popeish plot. Jews are taking over the world. McCarthy.

And every government has eroded trust with their lies. Whether it was eating BSE filled burgers or selling Peerages for profit or pretending the EU was only a trading block.

But, to the nub:
The Blair / Campbell Iraq case for war convinced a doubting public to go along with what turned out to be a disaster. Those lies turned into betrayal made worse by Blair's previous popularity..

The fact that Blair was so convincing, and had so little evidence for war, the silly chase for some UN resolution that only weakened the UK's position when it failed, now causes us to doubt the evidence of our own eyes unless its been independently verified by a source uncontaminated by UK politicians.
And often not even then.

That is what I mean by Blair's shadow.

And you can see it cast today over Ed Miliband who is using the words 'Learn Iraq Lessons' & 'Indisputable proof and UN mandate' as he attempts to either stop direct action or look like he is to his furious anti war backers.

Sound logic and probably the most sensible thing the Miliman has ever said.

But it undermines the PM because the sub message is
"We don't believe you David Cameron. We must see the evidence for ourselves. The word of the PM, even given in Parliament is no longer enough."

All politicians are liars.

electro-kevin said...

It wasn't Iraq that made me hate Blair but his vanity and the fact that he clearly hates the likes of me - he made all the pre-emptive strikes against modest, conservative Britain.

It was his mission to abolish our country which got to me - his foreign adventures merely attested to his vanity and highlighted the schizophrenic nature of his sixth-former world view.

Iraq was useful in that it made a lot of other people hate Blair too. For the wrong reason but it will do.

hovis said...

So Blair's lies cast a shadow, yes. He is vain, hubristic and morally dubious, yes. However he is a symptom, not a cause per se.

Our distrust of politicians and the (broken) representative political mechanisms in the country are entirely correct given the empirical evidence and experience we have. I dont think it is that all politcians are considered liars all the time. They can fart around most of the time with incremental longer term consequences and go unnoticed by the populous.

It is when as in the current case, questions are asked and possibilties are interpreted as facts and inconvenient facts are forgotten it is noted as further evidence of a 'fish rotting from its head'.

The last Sarin attack in Syria was in all likelihood by the 'rebels', (if you are inclined to believe the UN.) The curent enquiry looks at if gas was used not by whom.

Finally am I interpreting you correctly, that you suggest it is necesarily a bad thing that "people refused to believe their government"??

Anonymous said...

Ten years on, Iraq is a fractured, sectarian, violent and corrupt place - and the ancient Christian communities have been savaged by Islamist attack.

Not many Christians in Libya, but otherwise a similar outcome (see the current wave of strikes).

You'd think that would give our rulers pause for thought.

Apparently not.

Maybe a fractured, sectarian, violent and corrupt Syria is the aim?

DtP said...

Speaking of taking up blogging I think it would be only right to go back to the old skool

***applause Bill***

Blue Eyes said...

BQ great post. Apols if others have made this point already. You don't have to disbelieve the chemical attacks by Assad to be against military action. You can think the Assad is a bastard AND think that British involvement will be a disaster.

Bill Quango MP said...

EK - Never really got worried by Blair. Maybe fell for his charm. But Brown made me join the rebel alliance against him.

Hovis: agree with you on that. I'm not saying its bad that people don't believe their government. But in Britain, not an awfully long time ago, people absolubtley would have.

For me the worry is that the default position of the nation is that our government is lying to us.

Bill Quango MP said...

Anon. yep..In case it isn't clear I'm against any intervention of any kind. UN backing or not. Watching Dave now he's doing a good job. But he won't turn public opinion around whatever he does.

DTP-we await your blog with anticipation!

BE: We are of same mind. i firmly believe Assad or at least a Syrian army commander was responsible.
I don't believe that that requires military involvement.
Civil war is not something to jump into.

electro-kevin said...

I wonder if the Left will hold placards saying "Barak O' Bomber" or burn effigies of the first black president outside the US embassy.

If not then why not ?

hatfield girl said...

Poison gas murders of civilian populations living next door to Israel. It's hard to think of a greater threat to Israel's world view and historical experience, a greater attack upon their fundamental claim to existence.

Blair or no Blair (and he is doubly pernicious because he is being instrumentalised as well as having left this long shadow of destruction of political trust) gassing people has to be stopped: now, not after interminable delays and 'diplomacy'.

Ryan said...

I don't believe all politicians are liars but "cast-iron" Cameron has form over the Lisbon Treaty.

Cameron's attempt to talk the UK into a war it simply doesn't want, together with Labour's sad opportunism, is exactly the kind of thing that is giving people the impression that the political elite is entirely detached from the people and is serving other interests.

Ryan said...

Hatfield Girl: I presume that you are under the impression that gassing will be stopped using some sort of flip of a UN switch? Or is the reality that mass aerial bombardment will result in the deaths of 250,000 "human shields" and the Assad regime resorting to use of chemical weapons both on Syrias own citizens and Israel?

Assad is not like Saddam - the Assad regime has the support from the majority of the Syrian people, which is why he has had no trouble clinging on despite the rebels.

And what will happen if the Assad regime falls? Could it be we have a repeat of the situation is Egypt, where the new regime is no better than the previous? An unstable regime keeping its power by force? A regime stuffed with terrorists hell bent on taking action against Israel?

You need to think more than one step ahead....

Jer said...

Shouldn't we at least be considering our vital national interest?

We have no vital national interest at stake in Syria.

It is possible that we could be bribed by the Saudis or Americans to get involved, but we should really see the dosh first.

Timbo614 said...

@ Ryan. Quite. It has already turned into a political bun fight. They should rise above that stuff to make a decision for the nation, not start tying to score political points.

As for the nation believing politicians... there is the internet effect to consider, every word, action and nuance is pulled apart and opined on by all and sundry, just as here there is one view point (with pretty much a consensus today) there will be a hundred other bloggers/reporters with another view.

A percentage of the populace don't seem to care or be aware of half the stuff politicos get up to unless it directly affects their pay packet or it turns into a scandal.

All politicians lie.. not all of the time I'll give you, but it seems most of the time.

DtP said...

Was Crosby on holiday or in the Walkabout? Either Cammo's a fucking genius or this car crash is genuinely happening. What's that shit about laws and sausages? Good grief. The low grade speeches being made is like us lot at our jobs. Is a bit of effort too much to ask for? Kudos to Milibland though - saw a weakness and hit - bravo!

andrew said...

Reading the london ES - saw the rather good Carswell piece on this.

Makes the very good point that
in Egypt, the govt gets overthrown, the military kill 1000 and we support the military
- in Syria the regime kills 1000 in the course of a civil war and we want to bomb them to bits.

I was idly wondering about the things Blair and Richard II had in common.
King for a short time. Later reviled by his contemporaries. Not much liked by historians. Unmarked grave under a car park.

Nick Drew said...

You back in Italy, HG ? How's it going there ?

Elby the Beserk said...

"Budgie said...
BQ, you could add to the mix the fact that politicians (and others who run our society, like NHS Trust managers) never seem to resign when they get it wrong."

They used to. Whatever you think of Major's administratfion, ministers resigned if they fucked up or got caught. That ended with Blair, and now nobody in the public sector is ever responsible when things go wrong. Viz. David Nicholson.

Elby the Beserk said...

Anonymous said...
Ten years on, Iraq is a fractured, sectarian, violent and corrupt place - and the ancient Christian communities have been savaged by Islamist attack.
Egypt also. It seems that we - the UK and the USA - have made a decision what we support the Sunnis in the Middle East end of days conflict between Sunni and Shia. Obama loves to hag with the Muslim Bros, whose history includes close links with the Hitler Boys in the thirties and WWII, and we are now looking to support Sunni & Al Qaeda in Syria.

How we and the ObamaCretin came to this conclusion, that it is in our interests to support people who would blow us up at the drop of a hat is beyond me. History shows clearly that every time we intervene in the ME we make it worse for the populations involved.

And as for chems, well
... here, a former Al Qaeda linked terror group leader tells us that they have and have used chems in Syria.

And here a UN official tells us in May the rebshave and have used chems

And here, American intelligence (yeah, yeah, I know) tell us they have no idea who is behind the chems.

Budgie said...

BQ said: "Same with Syria. Western forces aren't planning going near the place with foot soldiers. Just standoff weapons fired from outside Syrian airspace or waters."

Is that supposed to be better?

My MP said that he does "not support a military strike in Syria" yet goes on to state " I would support enforcing a no-fly zone". This is contradictory - a no-fly zone involves military strikes. No military involvement means: No. Military. Involvement.

How can the nation trust the judgement of politicians (or others) who apparently cannot tell the difference between no military intervention on the one hand, and no-fly zones and cruise missile strikes on the other?

The worry is not that "the default position of the nation is that our government is lying to us" it is that so many politicians think they can turn out the same old codswallop and that we will still fall for it.

UK politicians seriously need to wake up, re-align themselves with what's real, and start telling the truth. Only then will they earn our trust.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Excellent post, Bill, and I believe the most accurate analysis of the situation that I have seen.

But whether all politicians are liars or not (I tend to think they are, but passing on...) I still don't think we have a dog in this fight, I am still not convinced that Assad did it (why would he, when it's the only thing certain to cause the US to intervene against him? Evil he may be, but surely not stupid), and I still think any military adventure on our part would just make things worse - if Assad falls he will be replaced by Islamist nutjobs who will be even worse for us and our interests. These are the reasons 80% + of British people want no part of it. Cameron is out of touch as well as a bad party manager.

Bill Quango MP said...

It appears Blair's shadow is even longer and much darker than we thought.